Euroleague Final Four Preview
The “other” Final Four takes Berlin by storm.
You probably thought that all the Final Four talk was done for the year now that North Carolina has cut down the nets. Well, like usual, you would be wrong (just kidding—you are all wise beyond your years). The NBA’s across the pond brethren—the Euroleague—is holding its big shindig, aptly named (you guessed it) the Final Four. This year’s proceedings are taking place in Berlin, Germany, but they will have a distinctly Greek flavor to them.
The “other” Final Four has a rich history similar to the NCAA’s version, with plenty of household names grabbing its MVP trophy. Since starting to award a MVP of the competition in 1988, its winners have included Bob McAdoo, Toni Kukoc (who won three MVPs in the early 90s), Arvydas Sabonis, Dominique Wilkins and Manu Ginobili.
What started out this season as a 24-team competition in October, comprising of clubs from 13 different countries, has been whittled down to four teams representing three countries. As alluded to above, Greece leads the way this year with two out of their three Euroleague entrants, with Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, making it to the semis. Olympiakos, known for its deep-pocketed owners, is looking for its first Euroleague crown since 1997. They knocked off Real Madrid three games to one to make it this far. Panathinaikos, a perennial Euroleague powerhouse with four titles since 1996, also had a relatively easy time getting to the Final Four, knocking off Montepaschi Siena in four games also.
If you’re going to speak of Euroleague powerhouses, you can’t forget about CSKA Moscow. Berlin marks their seventh-straight trip to the Final Four, with CSKA coming out on top in 2006 and 2008. They’ve also been the top dogs this season, sweeping Partizan to make it to Berlin. The fourth participant this year is better known for its footie players than hoops—FC Barcelona. After only losing twice through their first 16 games, Barcelona was on the brink of elimination last round before beating Tau Ceramica two games straight to survive.
Unfortunately for regular readers of this Draft 365, the Final Four is devoid of any serious NBA Draft prospects. But it is full of familiar names that should keep readers intrigued.
Trajan Langdon | CSKA Moscow
10.3 ppg, 43 3Pt%
The Dookie might have ended up being a NBA bust, but he is a European star, grabbing last year’s Final Four MVP trophy.
Ramunas Siskauskas | CSKA Moscow
11.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
The 6-6 Lithuanian swingman was the Euroleague MVP last season, and DraftExpress considers him the top potential NBA free agent overseas.
Erazem Lorbek | CSKA Moscow
12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg
The 25-year-old big man—property of the Indiana Pacers—had a killer series versus Partizan, going off for 15.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Ettore Messina | CSKA Moscow
CSKA’s Italian coach has won four Euroleague titles and is rumored to be the first European to become an NBA head coach in the near future.
Josh Childress | Olympiakos
8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg
SLAM‘s resident tech geek is back overseas after his abdominal surgery and ready to make good on the large financial investment his team made in him.
Ioannis Bourousis | Olympiakos
12.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg
Another highly coveted potential NBA free agent, big man Ioannis Bourousis had a breakout season this year and posted 25 points and six boards in his last game.
Theodoros Papaloukas | Olympiakos
8.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.0 rpg
Perhaps the best European player in recent times to not step foot on an NBA court.
Dimitris Diamantidis | Panathinaikos
8.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg
Like Papaloukas, Double D is another Greek stud that could have very easily earned a living in the NBA.
Mike Batiste | Panathinaikos
12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg
The former member of the Arizona State Sun Devils and Memphis Grizzlies is a long time Euroleague standout.
Nikola Pekovic | Panathinaikos
13.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg
A second round draft pick of the Minnesota last year, Pekovic’s play this season should have the Wolves brass and fans quite happy.
Juan Carlos Navarro | FC Barcelona
14.8 ppg, 3.7 apg
After proving last season he could excel in the NBA, JCN is back making the big bucks in Europe.
Ersan Ilyasova | FC Barcelona
11.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg
The 21-year-old has already played in the NBA (with the Bucks) and is know enjoying his best pro season yet.
Fran Vazquez | FC Barcelona
9.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg
He broke Orlando’s heart by deciding to stay in Europe after being drafted 11th overall by the Magic in 2005.
All the action tips off on Friday, with the two Greek clubs squaring off in the one semifinal and CSKA and FC Barcelona battling in the other. As usual, SLAMonline is the place to be for the breakdown on how it shakes down.
Photos via olympiacos.org, encancha.com, cskabasket.com and paobc.gr.